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Dozens of animals rescued by former British Royal Marine Pen Farthing have begun a new life at sanctuaries across the UK after their flight from Afghanistan.
Pictures on social media showed the dogs being welcomed by staff at the Lozzas Lurcher Rescue shelter in Hertfordshire, southern England, who described them as their “precious cargo”.
Images show several other dogs had been taken to the Wales Ape & Monkey Sanctuary for relocation and put into quarantine.
Mr Farthing, founder of the Nowzad charity in Afghanistan, managed to fly out on a privately chartered plane on Saturday with about 150 cats and dogs on board, landing at London Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning.
On Monday, he said most of the animals had landed safely and described the moments when he realised he would not be able to fly his Afghan staff along with the animals.
Mr Farthing gained backing from celebrities including comedian Ricky Gervais, and many offers to adopt the rescued animals. But he also drew criticism from those who said the case was draining time and energy from the task of rescuing Afghans at risk from the country’s new Taliban rulers.
“As the animals came off on the tarmac at Heathrow, I think they were shocked and stressed after that journey, but as they were coming off, I hope they knew they were going to somewhere safe,” Mr Farthing said.
“A lot of the animals are already adopted. We are not short of offers, so I don’t think we will have much trouble rehoming the rest.”
Mr Farthing said five cats had died on the first leg of the trip. He blamed the deaths on the stress of the relocation.
Almost all of the 100 dogs and 70 cats on the flight were “healthy”, with the dogs placed in kennels, said Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner and supporter of Mr Farthing.
Mr Farthing and his supporters have fought a high-profile campaign to fly both the animals and his Afghan staff out of Afghanistan.
He has been highly critical of the UK government’s plans to withdraw from Kabul.
“Getting the animals out was part of the mission but it wasn’t the whole mission,” he said.
“The fact that we got staff into the airport but they didn’t have the correct paperwork, because the rules had been changed two hours before, was absolutely heartbreaking.
“Everybody was crying and sad and in shock. That’s when the staff came up and said ‘You have to leave and get the animals out’.”
He also apologised for a verbal attack on Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, last week, whom he had accused of “blocking” efforts to arrange the flight.
“I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language. I do apologise to everybody who has listened to that.
“I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.”